Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The one and only true living dead

It's Hallooweeeen! Better bolt your doors and board up your windows cuz Zombie Jesus might just come knocking and feasting on your body and blood just as you've been dining on his for decades. Eye for an eye, liver for a liver, you see.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Roof of All Evil? --the complete collection

Part 1, The God Delusion





Part 2, The Virus of Faith

Root of All Evil? YouTube videos

Some videoclips from Richard Dawkins' two-part TV series Root of All Evil?


1. Religion and science as deeply opposed to one another. Science is about testing hypotheses; religion is about dogma. An example of the latter is the Catholic doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. (link)




2. Interview with Pastor Ted Haggard of New Life Church. (link)




3. The Old Testament deity as the most unpleasant character in all fiction; quotes from the OT on stoning unbelieving family members and handing over one's daughter to be raped. (link)




4. Morality, Darwinian explanation for morality, interview with Oliver Curry (London School of Economics) and Ian McEwan (atheist), atheism as life affirming. (link)




5. Hell houses and interview with Pastor Keenan Roberts. (link)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Top ten

I shared this Top Ten List via email in July 2005. Can't believe I didn't have a blog entry on this. Randi has it today on his Swift newsletter (his is taken from a different site). It's so hilarious (and spot on) I wish I could photocopy a ream and tack it to every post in town.

Top Ten Signs You're a Fundamentalist Christian

10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.

4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.

2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.

1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.

Richard Dawkins also has something similar in The God Delusion (Bantam Press, p. 178-179). Dawkins quotes anthropologist Pascal Boyer's description of the Fang people of Cameroon's strange supernatural beliefs in witches who have "extra animal-like organs" and who fly in the night. He also quotes Boyer's story of how when Boyer shared these strange beliefs in a Cambridge dinner, a theologian remarked, "That is what makes anthropology so fascinating and diffiuclt. You have to explain how people can believe such nonsense." Boyer recounts how he was too dumbfounded to say something about "kettles and pots."

Here's Dawkins' sooty kettle response:

Assuming that the Cambridge theologian was a mainstream Christian, he probably believed some combination of the following:

  • In the time of the ancestors, a man was born to a virgin mother with no biological father being involved.
  • The same fatherless man called out to a friend called Lazarus, who had been dead long enough to stink, and Lazarus promptly came back to life.
  • The fatherless man himself came alive after being dead and buried three days.
  • Forty days later, the fatherless man went up to the top of a hill and then disappeared bodily into the sky.
  • If you murmur thoughts privately in your head, the fatherless man, and his 'father' (who is also himself) will hear your thoughts and may act upon them. He is simultaneously able to hear the thoughts of everybody else in the world.
  • If you do something bad, or something good, the same fatherless man sees all, even if nobody else does. You may be rewarded or punished accordingly, including after your death.
  • The fatherless man's virgin mother never died but 'ascended' bodily into heaven.
  • Bread and wine, if blessed by a priest (who must have testicles), 'become' the body and blood of the fatherless man.
What would an objective anthropologist, coming fresh to this set of beliefs while on fieldwork in Cambridge, make of them?

Dawkins rightly says, "All religious beliefs seem weird to those not brought up in them" (p,177).

I usually give the example of my relatives in China, who have lived there all their life. Not one of them is Christian. Not one of them subscribes to any of the beliefs of the Abrahamic monotheisms. And I would bet they would judge anyone who believed in Dawkins' list above to be weird. On the other hand, practically every single one my relatives here in the Philippines--those born from the mid 20th century on--is affiliated with one or another Christian denomination. The simple reason is that this country is Christian (in the sense that Christianity is the dominant, prevalent, and inescapable worldview with 95% of the populace calling themselves Christians). China isn't; it has its own Buddhist-Taoist tradition. Thus, it all boils down to society and socialization. In this case, familiarity breeds delusions, delusions of possessing the truth.

Dawkins teaches Falwell's students a lesson

From Richard Dawkins' journal:

Last night in Lynchburg, Virginia, home of the infamous Jerry Falwell, was memorable. The large hall at Randolph Macon Woman’s College was packed. I gave a fairly short program of readings from The God Delusion, and then the bulk of the evening was given over to much more than an hour of Q & A. The first questioner announced himself as coming from Liberty (Falwell’s 'University'), and he began by saying he had never been so insulted, yet simultaneously so amused, by any lecture. Many of the questioners announced themselves as either students or faculty from Liberty, rather than from Randolph Macon which was my host institution. One by one they tried to trip me up, and one by one their failure to do so was applauded by the audience. Finally, I said that my advice to all Liberty students was to resign immediately and apply to a proper university instead. That received thunderous applause, so that I almost began to feel slightly sorry for the Liberty people. Only almost and only slightly, however.

The most interesting question was from a young woman not from Liberty but from Randolph Macon itself, and it really startled me. She wanted to know whether people who deconverted from a religious upbringing felt ‘anger’. In my naivety, I went blank. Why should one feel anger? Anger towards what, or whom? I asked the audience whether they understood what she meant, and there was a great chorus of “Yes”. I asked them again, why anger, anger towards whom? Then they started shouting from all around the hall. It was anger towards their parents for bringing them up religious, anger towards teachers and pastors for indoctrinating them as children.

As for me I can't say that I'm that angry at those Jesuits who drummed the belief in a sky daddy. While intelligent, those old men (some of them already deceased) were just adept in compartmentalizing their minds. They were well rooted in reality about certain things. But they were all utterly stupid when it came to religion. Well, adios padres. I left you behind ages ago. And those of you who're still around, geez, are you still talking to your imaginary friend in the clouds?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Imagine; it isn't hard to do




Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

--John Lennon

Monday, October 23, 2006

The unbearable strangeness of faith-heads

Earlier this month a naive Xian created the thread "Greetings from a theist" on the RDF discussion board. This Xian, whose handle is "thegoodbook," introduced himself as the owner of a North Carolina bookshop which "specializes in religious materials."

Among other things he claimed:
The matter of the fact is that The Bible is the most perfect written work ever assembled and that if we fail to realize this, then we are in trouble.

A forumer challenged this so-called perfection of the bible by citing the inconsistencies between the lineages of Jesus provided by Luke and Matthew. thegoodbook rationalized and explained it away by saying,
although The Bible is not internally consistent does not mean that it is not perfect. Again, we are describing the same thing from different points of view, but I will try not to leave it at that. I believe that The Bible is perfect. I have many reasons for this.

Consistency is not a criterion for judging something perfect. Try to digest that. It means any book is a candidate for being described as perfect. And so would any government notwithstanding the presence of conflicting, contradicting policies and haphazard enforcement of the law. (Well, what do you know? The Philippines still has a chance of being called perfect.) So what are the criteria for perfection?

thegoodbook continues:
If The Bible were to say 2+2=6, then I would believe it because that is where I derive my truth from. But, the Bible is not a math book so I look to mathematics for the sum of two and two. If it is internally inconsistent as to the lineage(s) of Jesus, then there must surely have been a reason for this and only adds to the mystry of the whole idea of The Bible and its perfection. But I don't know, I wasn't there. All I have is faith and evidence (proof) that is coherent in the context of that faith.

Folks, according to the bible π = 3. I'm sure this bloke will have nothing of what his math teachers taught him to the contrary. I can almost see him furiously exorcising his car for having tires that don't conform to god's mathematical constant.

Note that when Xians finally get cornered and are unable to explain an inconsistency, contradiction, or whatnot, they whip out the all-reliable "God is mysterious" flash card (used particularly when the question is about the presence of horrid evils that God permits and how God fails to save people from them). "God's ways are mysterious" is meant to be the mother of all inquiry stoppers. "Mystery" is suppposed to be the Great Wall you can't possibly punch through or climb over--we can't possibly know; it's beyond our puny brains to comprehend. In fact it means two things. 1. It translates to "You got me there. I haven't the foggiest idea." 2. The believer is sending the message that there is nothing in the world that can possibly falsify his belief, that there's absolutely nothing that could change his mind--neither contrary evidence, inconsistencies, contradictions, ... Nothing. For such a believer faith always trumps reason, even in the presence of confuting evidence (e.g. a "perfect" text that contains inconsistencies).

Spurred by thegoodbook's mind-boggling math remark, a member asked, "[And] if the bible said it's ok to rape?" Our diehard theist replied:
Sort of a rediculous question, but IF The Bible said it was OK to rape, then it would be OK to rape. Many atheists like to cite The Bible as stating that it is OK, indeed required, to kill your family if they do not believe. Well, I depart from God on this point which I don't have a problem doing.

My jaw dropped to the floor. I had to read his position on rape twice to make sure my eyes didn't skip over any "not" before "OK." Go read that sentence again. This guy is telling us that if the bible permits heinous crime Y then in thegoodbook's ethical system Y would and should be permitted. Well, I think thegoodbook has a daughter. Sir, I really want to get to know your daughter.* Hand her over. What do you mean you won't allow it? Do I have to recite Genesis 19:8 to you? Now be quick about it.

On the other hand, despite his belief that the bible is perfect and is the source of truth, thegoodbook is his own god when it comes to slitting the throats of unbelieving family members. I take it he won't stone his children to death if they become agnostics/atheists, despite God's crystal clear instructions. By his decision thegoodbook apparently is telling us that he deems himself more perfect than The Good Book when it comes to provisions on treatment of unbelievers. Of course the simple truth is that thegoodbook cherry picks which verses he's going to seriously consider and which he'll simply turn a blind eye to.


Faith makes people irrational. It makes them unable to think clearly. It makes them unbearably queer.


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* To know = to have sex

Sunday, October 22, 2006

They know because they don't

Whenever you hear a faith-head exclaim, "This is incredible! It's a miracle!" what s/he's actually blurting is, "Hallelujah, this is really so incredible! But I'm just too stupid/lazy to hypothesize/understand/explain/know how it could've happened otherwise." Such people don't bother to calm down, take a piece of paper and write down various possible parsimonious explanations, test them, rule them out, before concluding, "I've checked a huge number of plausible naturalistic hypotheses and none of them can explain the phenomenon. Therefore, the supernatural hypothesis remains a candidate. Notwithstanding, since it is fallacious to make an argument from ignorance, the actual cause cannot (by default) be said to be supernatural, since only if we come to ultimately possess omniscience of the totality of the natural world and exhausted all possible naturalistic explanations can we conclude that the event was in fact supernaturally caused and thus indeed a miracle. Since such omniscience is not at all forthcoming, no inexplicable event/phenomenon now or in the future can ever be known or said to be a miracle All we can say is that 'We as yet cannot explain it. We just don't know.'"

Miracle-mongers have such puffed-up egos and warped minds that when they're ignorant of how something came about they conclude they know it must've been supernaturally caused. As others have said "God did it" and "it's supernatural" are mere placeholders for "ignorance."

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Down the rabbit hole

When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.

--Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

When a man advertizes--in all seriousness--that he can turn baguettes and batards into rabbit meat just by chanting some magic words, yet thereafter produces no change in the breads but insists they're now in fact medium rare rabbit steaks, he's dismissed as a lunatic.

When a thousand Vatican geezers seriously believe they can turn baked dough into a dead man's muscle tissue by mumbling their own magic words, that's christened religion. As if that weren't enough, a billion gullibles worldwide join and reinforce the delusion and queue up to have their weekly ration of human meat!*

Do you think they'll snap out of it if governments of the world start booking and prosecuting them for practising cannibalism?



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* It's actually worse, since Jesus is said to be fully human and fully divine. Therefore, not only are they engaging in cannibalism but also in theophagy.

I think their god needs a pinch more salt.

How science is the handmaiden of theology

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that:

In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained." "This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present." [emphasis original]

...

The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation."

Since the laity doesn't usually get to lap up Jesus' red and white blood cells, let's limit our analysis to his muscle, skin, skeletal, and cellulite tissues.

We're told that the "whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained" in the consecrated bread, which means that not only his brain, heart, liver, kidneys, entrails (and attendant intestinal flora I suppose), biceps, glutes, and all are in it, but also the incorporeal thingamabob known as "his soul and divinity" (whatever those are).

Here's the problem. If I were to eat my pet dog Bubbles, then obviously after devouring him, he will no longer be around, right? I can ingest him only once. Were I to ask for another round of Bubbles, the best that can be done is to find me a Japanese spitz that resembles him as much as possible in all his aspects, both externally and internally and even "person"ality-wise. But the fact remains there is and will forever be one and only one Bubbles, just as in all history there is and will be one and only one Monica Lewinsky (notwithstanding the fact that Monica can eat Bill's dog--in its entirety, mind you--on more than one occasion).

Here's the second problem. Given that there can be only one Bubbles, were I to say that this cookie I have in my hand is in fact a transubstantiation of Bubbles and is the whole of Bubbles, how can Bubbles also be in that cookie you're about to nibble on? And for that matter how can the whole of Bubbles be in any number of other cookies simultaneously? There would be little problem if the claim had been that my cookie contains only a part of Bubbles--we could, at least in principle, divide the transubstantiation process such that there is at least one atom/molecule of him in each cookie. But since the claim is that all of Bubbles is in this cookie, no part of Bubbles can be in any other cookie or in any other thing.

A most brain-racking problem, isn't it?

Well, it certainly was, until our generation. Today we know the answer to this conundrum. And it's pretty simply really.

Cloning.

Christ is wholly present in your wafer and in my wafer and in the priest's wafer and in trillions of other crackers from centuries ago to millennia hence through the power of cloning. God being perfect and the creator of DNA is the Master Genetic Engineer. Through supernatural abracadabra tens of millions of clones of Jesus are manufactured weekly in heaven and Fedexed (through its premium one microsecond door-to-altar delivery service) to various points around the globe.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist is, therefore, not only an alchemical process of transmuting flour into Homo sapiens flesh (the so-called transubstantiation), but also concurrently a process of instantaneous cloning, with the original template (The Body) preserved (i.e., free from any genetic modification and mutation whatsoever) and kept well secured behind the pearly gates. Christ is ever present and present in his totality in every serving through the remarkable phenomenon of cloning.

Now, this is scientific knowledge in the service of understanding the supernatural. And it constantly amazes how science just keeps moving us toward a better comprehension of what theologians have known since before the Middle Ages.

Given the indubitable truth of cloned Christs, the Vatican's stance on cloning now becomes quite understandable. Though we are allowed to investigate and be privy to the secrets of God's creation and powers, we should not aspire to apply such powers, for imagine the terror that would ensue were scientists able to finally clone Satan! Think about that for a moment. Were this to come to pass, it would mean that the Son would have to (re)incarnate and be crucified an indefinite number of times to defeat all these Satans.* This, needless to say, would be the mother of all horrors, both in heaven and on earth.

Deja vu unlimited cannot be permitted to happen. Thus, while science makes us understand and appreciate the wonders of both the natural and the supernatural worlds, it must not overstep its mandate. Unfortunately, however, there has been no lack of eggheads who've been swayed and even possessed by the Evil One himself, scientists who are even at this very moment doing his bidding in his quest to finally become infinitely cloned as his brother Jesus has been privileged.

Is there a way to stop this madness?

There most certainly is. As a matter of fact there is only one surefire way to foil the machinations of the Evil One: We must sit down, close our eyes, fold our hands, contract every muscle in our body and face, move our bowels, and pray. Pray, my brothers and sisters. Pray as you've never had in your despicable, insignificant lives. Pray the moment you arise from your slumber; pray as you are cruising down or crossing the highway (be not concerned my brethren for God keeps woowoos from harm); pray at work, be not distracted by the world and pray as you're operating heavy machinery or operating on that heart patient; pray as you're watching Sex in the City; pray as you make out. Oh God! pray all day and all night until the world is delivered from this sh*t!

My dear brothers and sisters, have faith! Force yourself to believe till you turn blue and green. Believe like mad that prayer works, visualize Satan defeated once and for all, click your heels three times, think only positive, happy thoughts, rub that magnet over your heart chakra, wear a pyramid on your head, eat Jesus bread made with non-GM, organically grown wheat, and soon, very soon, as long as soon may get, we shall win the war.

Peace be with you.



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* "The death of Christ on the cross is the basis for Satan's final defeat (Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 Peter 3:18,22)," Why did Satan think he could defeat God? Keep in mind that Satan lives! And is the master of this world. Thus, it will soon become possible to not only create a multiplicity of him but also various genetically modified versions--each one a little different from the other--which would necessitate the crucifixion of the Second Person of the Trinity for each and every new strain of Satan. Furthermore, given the power of the scientific enterprise, scientists may one day through artificial selection create a Satan that is completely resistant to the death of Christ. An unthinkable abomination indeed!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Again, it's all in the brain

I remember in my teens till early adulthood I often had dreams of flying and hovering above the terrain. Whilst dreaming I felt this tremendous excitement and exhilaration at having this ability to just float up and to exercise some steering control, going where I wanted. If only it were real.

No one (well, I guess practically no one) doubts that dreaming is all in the mind. It's just another neurological phenomenon. We all dream. We all know in the morning that it was just our brain shoving us into its Holodeck. But what about those so-called out of body experiences? Have there actually been cases where people left their bodies and traveled above themselves or elsewhere?

I most certainly doubt it. What part of a human could separate from the body and remain a viable entity (with energy to run its processes) that can sense and make sense of what it is perceiving? Uh, the soul? This invisible, incorporeal, nonphysical, undetectable soul or what have you has eyes and ears and a CPU with memory to record what it's perceived during the flight? And can reintegrate and interface with the body thereafter? The following heads-up by Dr. Massimo Pigliucci sheds light on what these experiences really are.

Blanke and colleagues have shown that small electrical currents in certain areas of the brain involved with multi-sensorial perception, such as the angular gyrus, cause the distinct sensation of out-of-body experience or of a strange presence in the room. One patient had the feeling of hanging from the ceiling, another was sure that there was a presence behind her, and a third one felt a “shadow” next to her, attempting to interfere with her activities. These experiences are repeatable under laboratory conditions, which means that a hallmark of parapsychology – out of body experiences – can actually be turned on or off at will by the experimenter, has been traced to perturbations of specific circuits in the brain, and of course has absolutely nothing supernatural about it. [emphasis added]

Strictly speaking, however, this doesn't mean that out of body experiences, astral travel, and the like have been disproved, that they aren't real. But now whenever paranormalists point to OBEs it's incumbent upon them to first rule out the possibility that it was just another illusion courtesy of the brain. Then again some of these woowoos are pretty deluded to begin with.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Virgin sun maids

By Sam Harris:
We must not overlook the fact that a significant percentage of the world's Muslims believe that the men who brought down the World Trade Center are now seated at the right hand of God, amid "rivers of purest water, and rivers of milk forever fresh; rivers of wine delectable to those that drink it, and rivers of clearest honey" (47:15). These men--who slit the throats of stewardesses and delivered young couples with their children to their deaths at five hundred miles per hour--are at present being "attended by boys graced with eternal youth" in a "kingdom blissful and glorious." They are "arrayed in garments of fine green silk and rich brocade, and adorned with bracelets of silver" (76:15). The list of their prerequisites is long. But what is it that gets a martyr out of bed early on his last day among the living? Did any of the nineteen hijackers make haste to Allah's garden simply to get his hands on his allotment of silk? It seems doubtful. The irony here is almost a miracle in its own right: the most sexually repressive people found in the world today--people who are stirred to a killing rage by reruns of Baywatch--are lured to martyrdom by a conception of paradise that resembles nothing so much as an al fresco bordello.

In the endnote to the above Harris writes:
Christopher Luxenberg (this is a pseudonym), a scholar of ancient Semitic languages, has recently argued that a mistranslation is responsible for furnishing the Muslim paradise with "virgins" (Arabic hur, transliterated as "houris"--literally "white ones"). It seems that the passages describing paradise in the Koran were drawn from earlier Christian texts that make frequent use of the Aramaic word hur, meaning "white raisins." White raisins, it seems, were a great delicacy in the ancient world. Imagine the look a young martyr's face when, finding himself in a paradise teeming with his fellow thugs, his seventy houris arrive as a fistful of raisins.

(Sam Harris, End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, New York: W.W. Norton, 2005, p. 127, 263)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Timber!

Oops! Forgot to enter this.

It was Friday the 13th yesterday. Guess what? A rather hefty branch (around 4 inches in diameter) of one of our trees broke and fell on our car. That was one heavy branch. Couldn't lift it and could hardly push or pull it away.

Sorry to disappoint the superstitious but there are no broken windows, not even dents. At worst there could be some nearly invisible scratches on the roof of the car. The leaves and outlying twigs must've acted like a shock absorber and broken its fall. Nobody even heard it come crashing down (may have done so in slow mo). This branch had probably already been partially snapped by that incredibly strong typhoon that struck two week ago.

Kicking out this fatty

Shortening is a fat that's made from vegetable oil. Why convert oil to shortening? Because then it becomes solid at room temperature and gains a longer shelf life. A lot of margarines are in fact a form of shortening with added flavors and color. The way to transform vegetable oil into shortening is through hydrogenation whereby hydrogen atoms are added to the oil molecules in the presence of catalysts. The more hydrogenated an oil is the more solid it becomes.

For some time now I've been hearing that trans fatty acids (TFA) are really bad. You could say that within the axis of evil, trans fat is the mother of all bad cholesterol. [1]
Replacing only 2 percent of calories from trans fat with a non-trans unsaturated fat cuts the risk of heart disease by more than half, according to Harvard researchers. They found that cutting trans fats—far more than cutting saturated or total fat—is the best way to lower the risk of heart attack and strokes.
What has TFA got to do with shortening and margarine? Well, partial hydrogenation--which has been the most common process--creates trans fatty acids. (Curiously, full hydrogenation renders the product TFA-free.)

Given its notoriety there are those who'd like to ban or have already banned trans fats.
Americans don't take lightly to bans, as illustrated by the ridicule thrown at New York City's plan to eliminate trans fats from its 20,000 restaurants, announced Sept. 26. The typical cries went up about infringement of personal liberties and the rise of food Nazis.

...

Trans fats are now universally vilified by health experts. Denmark outright banned the fat in 2003, meaning no trans fat in the Danish danish. The European Union is mulling a similar ban.

Banning fats? How long has shortening been around? Oh, about a century.[2] Not that age matters at all. But I for one would rather see a transitional period. Go on an educational blitz to scare the hell out of consumers and brainwash them. That should naturally motivate restaurants and food manufacturers to switch to non trans fats and advertize their products as such. After some years make it illegal, since who are we kidding? Not all of them will go for more expensive options (assuming substitutes don't become cheaper).

I'm not familiar with other foods, but I have a little working knowledge of breads. Have you taken at look at the list of ingredients for your loaf lately? Only occasionally in my case. Unless you're some purist who sticks only to rustic breads that've been made with nothing except flour, salt, water, and yeast (and bacteria), you're probably taking in an amount of shortening or margarine in every slice and morsel. Given that trans fats are the baddest of them fats and oils, as consumers who purchase bread regularly and who do want to reduce health risks as much as we can, there is reason to clamor for TFA-free baked goodies (just as diabetics can now have desserts and cakes made with sweeteners such as Splenda).

Can we make good bread sans trans fat? No question about it. Good, flavorful breads (the so called "enriched" types, as opposed to the "lean" ones) are made with butter. But butter is expensive and so a good number of mass-produced loaves out there, those that are soft and easy on the jaws, are made with shortening. The amount incorporated varies, but as per the formulas I received from a baking engineer it falls in the range of 3 to 6%. [3] All fats/oils tenderize bread by coating the dough's gluten strands (gluten is a protein that makes dough elastic and is what allows the dough to trap the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast during fermentation). However, according to Johnson and Wales University baking instructor Peter Reinhart, shortening "gives the softest texture." [4] Given the different forte of various oils and fats I wouldn't be surprised if a combination of them were used in a loaf. I myself have experimented with a butter and margarine/shortening combo to try and get the best of two worlds. Although, margarine and shortening are cheaper, they don't melt at around body temperature nor do they come close to the aroma and flavor of butter (shortening is tasteless and pretty solid even at 30 degrees Celsius).

As Reinhart says if you want flavor use butter. But if you want to reduce your saturated fat intake as well--as the American Heart Association suggests--then go for unsaturated oils. Breads such as focaccia and even pizza crust (some types at least) are made with olive oil which is mostly a mix of mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated. Other options to reduce bad fat intake? Director of the Baking Education Center of King Arthur's Flour Co. Jeffrey Hamelman has this suggestion: "For those who prefer to eat less butter, my advice is not to alter the proportioned formulas, but instead to have a thinner slice of the product." [5] Ah yes. Diet, diet, diet.

The good news is there are already fats out that are TFA-free. Crisco for example has its fully hydrogentated shortening. Margarines meanwhile are all over the map. There should be variants out there that are very low in TFA (but I really wonder how much trans fat there is in every spoon of Star margarine). Hopefully as demand and production volume picks up prices start going down. As to how they affect the product and perform in the pan and in the oven, I have no idea.

As cities and countries around the world begin cracking down on TFA it makes you wonder if saturated fat will ever be on the chopping block. That'll be the day when butter becomes illegal.



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Notes:

1. There is no cholesterol in vegetable oils, hydrogenated or otherwise, but ingesting trans fats does elevate low density lipoprotein (LDL)--the bad cholesterol and lower high density lipoprotein (HDL)--the good guy.

There's this quacky doc of my mom who interminably gets on my nerves. Among his inanities is that he says no to all fats and oils and railroads all of them, simplistically declaring, "fat is fat." I ask him about whether unsaturated and polyunsaturated would be better for frying, and he just whips out this slogan of his. Arrgghh! Well, there certainly are MDs who distinguish between good and bad fats. And this diabetologist is supposed to be a medical awardee or something?


2. Harold McGee, McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2004, p. 801.


3. Based on baker's percentage.

The baker's percentage is an efficient and convenient method of expressing a formula (recipe). (I now shudder whenever I see a recipe expressed in cups and teaspoons!) Flour always totals 100% (yes, there are times when two or more types of flours are used). The amount of every other ingredient is a percentage of the flour weight.

Example: Given the formula below, let's say we want to end up with a final dough weight of 2000 grams. We first compute for the flour weight. That's simply the dough weight divided by the total percentage: 2000 g. / 170.7 % = 1171.6 g, which we round up to 1172 g. To get the weights of the other ingredients simply multiply their percentages by the flour weight. Thus, the amount of shortening required is 1172 g. x 4.0 % = 46.88 g. The combined weight of all the ingredients should equal your desired dough weight.

Ingredient      Baker's %     weight
--------------------------------------
bread flour 100.0 % 1172.0 grams
instant yeast 0.9 10.5
powdered milk 2.0 23.4
water 57.0 668.0
salt 1.8 21.1
sugar 5.0 58.6
shortening 4.0 46.9

Total 170.7 % 2000.6 grams

By the way, the above formula is fictitious, even as it'll produce edible bread. That's the beauty of using baker's percentage. You can at a glance instantly see if the recipe is workable or not.


4. Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2001, p.265. In this and the succeeding pages, Reinhart discusses the formulation for three variations for pain de mie (i.e., sandwich bread or dinner rolls--but very good ones!). His formulas call for 7.7 to 10.7% butter, vegetable oil, or shortening.


5. Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2004, p. 60. A most excellent book, I should say. The science and techniques sections are the ones I love most.

And here are some goodies I made this week using Hamelman's Soft Butter Rolls formula. Oh yes, this definitely has baaad fats. Not only does it have butter in the dough but in the crust as well--instruction calls for brushing it with melted butter before and after baking.

60-gram rolls in a 16" x 12" x 2" aluminum pan. Fully proofed and ready for baking



Rolls on the cooling rack. Had to slice the rectangle of rolls since my cooling racks just aren't large enough.



50-gram rolls baked in a 9" round pan

Friday, October 13, 2006

Strike two for Mercola

From this week's Consumer Health Digest:

The FDA has ordered Joseph Mercola, DO and his Optimal Wellness Center to stop making illegal claims for four products. The order was based on product labels collected during an inspection at his facility and on claims made on the Optimum Wellness Center Web site. The objectionable claims include:

**Vibrant Health Research Chlorella XP, claimed to "help to virtually eliminate your risk of developing cancer in the future."

**Fresh Shores Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, claimed to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and degenerative diseases.

**Momentum Health Products Vitamin K2, possibly useful in treating certain kinds of cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

**Momentum Health Products Cardio Essentials Nattokinase NSK-SD, claimed to be "a much safer and effective option than aspirin and other pharmaceutical agents to treating heart disease."

In 2005, the agency warned Mercola about claims for chlorella, coconut oil, and another product. Mercola.com is one of the Internet's largest and busiest health information sites. Mercola states that his site has over 50,000 pages and is visited by "millions of people each day," and that his three-times-a-week electronic newsletter has over 850,000 subscribers. Many of his articles make unsubstantiated claims and clash with those of leading medical and public health organizations. For example, he opposes immunization and fluoridation, claims that amalgam fillings are toxic, and makes many unsubstantiated recommendations for dietary supplements. Much of his support comes from chiropractors who promote his newsletter from their Web sites. For further information and links to the warning letters, see http://www.quackwatch.org/11Ind/mercola.html

Well, it looks like he's busted, albeit for now he's just getting a (second) slap on the wrist.

This is a vindication of sorts. When virgin coconut oil really became a fad here and I started checking this substance out I came across Mercola's site. That was about two years ago. He's one of the more avid promoters of VCO. I scoured PubMed and couldn't find VCO clinical trials that went beyond dermatological studies. Finding little to support the claims I had been hearing and reading I emailed the American Heart Association in October 2004 to get more info. I received this reply:

I am unaware of any credible studies that have been done on the health benefits of virgin coconut oil. I have even checked the National Library of Medicine and there are no scientific studies listed. Coconut oil is very high in saturated fat and we have a great deal of evidence to show that saturated fatty acids raise blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease.

Going loco over coco. Lots of testimonials out there. But what a dearth of controlled, double-blind studies.

Mercola might as well be advertizing PrayER as an effective cure for every disease and malady the world has ever known (with the exception of amputated limbs--for some mysteriously unknown reason).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Feast your eyes on this!

That can't be a photo. Must be an artist's rendition. Lighting and the rings in the foreground certainly look pretty strange.

But no (or yes), it really is a photo--a mosaic of some 165 photos taken by the Cassini probe.

I'd like to say it's beautiful, if not for the fact it hardly looks natural.


(via The Bad Astronomer)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Imagine you were out at sea and this was your sail

Kind of late in posting the pics below. Lazy me. Not that they're at all relevant to what this blog is about.

Typhoon Milenyo (tropical storm Xangsane) ripped through the metro last September 28. It could very well have been Kali the Destroyer. It was here and gone in less than six hours but what devastation it wrought. It uprooted great old trees, downed electric lines, and--most talked about since that time--knocked down a good number of billboard towers. Which brings us to the pictures below.

I noticed through the second floor window the following tarpaulin billboard being torn to shreds. Ran to get my camera and recorded its tortuous demise. There were actually two tarps on the steel tower. The one facing right had already been completely ripped and blown away by the time I started shooting. What you see below is the tarp facing left.

Just to preempt any confusion, the trees and electric pole and electric wires on it are in the foreground around 30 meters away while the billboard tower was some 100-150 meters from where I was. The dark specks in some images are leaves and debris surfing in the wind.

Camera was handheld so images aren't that crisp (you'd think I had Parkinson's). Contrast is pretty low and images are kind of hazy not only because of the rain but also because I was shooting through the window. Didn't dare open it for fear of having the rain ruin the cam.

How long do you think it took for the wind god to strip the tower? The first frame was taken at 12:24pm; the last at 12:33pm. Shredding time: under 10 minutes.

Click on the pics to see the larger versions. Be forewarned. Each image is half a megabyte in size.




















And the structure as it was this afternoon:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What's worse than chain letters?

A certain James del Rosario spammed my egroup with this crap:

ALL NATURAL PRODCUT THAT HELPS CURE ANY DISEASE!!!

If you are interested, please reply to tutzdel@yahoo.com , I get lots of email, I may accidentally delete your inquiry. You could also contact me at 09162237863. If not interested, please refer to a friend in need, thanks mucho!

Hello my friends, (THIS IS SYSTEMIC ENZYME THERAPY!)

I recently stumbled upon a very good Filipino made product called bio enzyme plus made from fruit enzymes, all organically grown, naturally fermented without any chemical additives and gosh, it is very effective! I have been trying out so many herbal products and this one is just stunningly miraculous! Enzymes have the ability to catalyze any toxins inside your body and convert it into water so you could get rid of them through your stool, perspiration and urination thus freeing you of any disease that you are suffering from.

I have seen so many people suffering from stroke who after intaking enzymes you wouldn't even have the slightest idea they suffered from it. Diabetes patients totally cured from it, even regaining their eyesight, there was even one who actually was cured from gangrene avoiding amputation of her foot. Stage 4 breast cancer, liver cancer, colon cancer being totally free and cured from it. People about to go for a triple bypass cancelled after drinking enzymes, hypertension sufferer's blood pressure dropping to normal. Impotent men getting back their manhood from enzymes (a whole lot better than viagra!). Goiter (hypo or hyper thyroidism) and arthritis cured in less than 2 weeks.Would you believe that kids who are not able to speak any words could now do so because of bio enzymes. Lupus sufferers totally cured, psoriasis totally cured, even comatose patients whom doctors said would not live normally being able to walk and live normally as if nothing happened and so many other cases that you would normally think incurable, even AIDS!!!

Wow, if only we would turn back to mother nature, any disease known to man is actually curable. The science of it is so simple, backed by 15 years of research by top Russian, Japanese and Filipino scientists, they discovered that by just eliminating the root cause of the disease which are the toxins present in our bodies that we have accumulated through years of eating, drinking, inhaling toxins we would be totally free of any kind of disease we could be suffering from!!! This could not be achieved by herbal supplements, vitamins or any medicines, only enzymes have the ability to detoxify our bodies. Being catalysts, enzymes convert any toxins in your body into water so you could eliminate them through stool, sweat and pee. By cleansing yourself of these harmful toxins, the damage that was done in your body will be repaired as our cells have the natural ability to repair themselves, thus healing us of any disease.

You just might know of people who are sick and have nowhere else to turn to, people who just want to feel better, people sick and tired of drinking medicines etc etc. I could conduct a scientific health seminar (only 15 minutes) for them to further explain the benefits. It could be one on one or big group type. You could contact me thru my landline, I am from Quezon city 4356430 or globe 09162237863.


Sincerely yours,

Tutz del Rosario
(02) 4356430 09162237863


Dear Tutz,

Look out your window. Have the guys from the NBI arrived?

Want to see my Porsche and Maserati?

There's this devotee--let's call her K--who believes that her tradition's sacred text is the word of God. Mind you she's not a Christian. K has unwavering faith (i.e., belief) that it is her god who's for real and that every word in what she considers the holy text comes from this deity of hers. Asked what she thinks of the gods of other religions, she coughs out a snicker and says simply, "As real as Cthulhu and Voltes V."

My question is, Why is it that not every theist, every human who yearns to be God's toadie has faith in K's deity and holy book? Why is it that bible toters and Vatican geezers don't have faith in this god, the supernatural entity that's purportedly the only real and true being up there? And more importantly, why the heck don't you believe? Sigh. Ye men and women of little faith!

Ask devout Hindus, Parsis, Muslims, Jews, ... whether their deity is the real McCoy and whether their scriptures are the word of their deity/deities. Bring me one who says no.

We can have faith in a billion and one things. And yet believing, believing ardently, believing till our brains explode in ecstasy (no, not the pill) isn't going to make what we believe in true and real if it just ain't so. Dozens if not hundreds predicted the world would end before today. And yet all these forecasts are now history! However much gullibles may have believed in them, they were absolutely wrong. Beliefs are, literally, only in the mind. Thus, "utterly stupid" is what describes the act of going about raving and coaxing others to have faith. That clarion call "Have faith"--to believe fervently despite the lack of evidence or even because there is no evidence--is today's PC phrase for "Please, please delude yourself."

The next time an ecstatic religionist sidles up to you like some MLM (multi level marketing) salesman, keep in mind that that person, at least vis-a-vis the nonexistent product he's persuading you to invest in, is totally bonkers and is psychotic and has bought into a tale he (desperately) wishes to be true.*

When accosted by such a crazy fool subject him to this acid test: Ask him to show you the product. Demand that he produce this deity he's so gaga over. No demo, no go. If he insists he can't and argues that that's why you need to have faith, then tell him all about the honest-to-goodness fire-breathing dragon in your garage which, just by coincidence, you can't make visible either. Which means that he must have faith that this hydrogen-expelling creature is in fact in the driver's seat of your invisible 500-hp Ferrari. And for good measure tell him about how that innocent, beat-up 1.3-liter Toyota parked in there regularly transubstantiates into a Lamborghini whenever it hits the streets. "Faith, my boy. Just have faith all this is true."


---------

* "Normal" people can have transient psychotic episodes and can compartmentalize their minds, chronically, such that one or two or more beliefs or ways of thinking are totally irrational and incongruous with the rest of what's in his head. Thus, an engineer may be an expert in constructing bridges and a top-notch professor of civil engineering, but can harbor such wacky, ludicrous beliefs as aliens abducting humans just to have sex with them. (See Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Seen this guy lately?

I love the following Jeebus photo album. Shows how He cometh in many guises ... and sizes too.


God Zilla rampaging in New York. About to knock down the UN Headquarters.




Jeebus, M.D., Director of Surgery




"Upon this Rocky I will build my church"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Food for the soul?

Question: Who in their right mind would stand up at the dinner table and say, "Hey guys, listen up. You see these morsels I've broken off from the loaves of challah, ciabatta, brioche, and pain de mie (pullman)? Well, these are actually my body. Hey, no snickering over there. I'm not kidding. And no, I'm not saying they represent or symbolize my biological tissue. These are truly, really, literally me. Here, have some. Sure, it tastes like bread, and yeah I sure hell know any and all physical and chemical analyses will reveal it to be gelatinized starch, saccharides, proteins, fats and oils, and yeast, but you gotta take my word that it is me. When you munch on it you in fact are eating me. Yeah, yeah, I know that's cannibalism any way you look at it, but, hey, every time you do this you will be remember me, long after I'm gone. And more than just making sure you don't forget moi, eating me is the way you will without a shadow of a doubt take me into you. This is really 'in - corporating' me (for those who weren't paying attention to the Romans, that's from the Latin corpus, meaning 'body'). So come on guys, take and eat. Bite into me!"

Who in their right mind would believe this looney? And who would actually get duped into performing the cannibalistic ritual?

Well, when it comes to feasting on a (supposed) 2,000-year old corpse that got up, walked about, and was finally beamed up to the mother ship (heaven) to resume his invisible god status (remember though, the Vatican says Jeebus is fully human and fully divine), Catholics win hands down in stupendous nuttiness. I mean, they actually queue up, weekly, to get a serving of their hero! (In fairness, if they start passing Danish butter and baguettes along with those wafers, I'd line up too.)

But let's assume that these gullibles are actually ingesting this man called Jeebus. In that case I have some nutrition, dietary, and medical questions about their cannibal fare: How many calories is Jeebus? Isn't ingesting a whole human weighing some 150 pounds kind of fattening? Getting that much meat surely increases bad cholesterol levels with adverse consequences for cardiovascular health. And what about Jeebus' colon and all its pathogenic bacteria such as E. coli? Shouldn't his entrails be removed first before being devoured? Another important consideration: Is Jeebus served raw or is he cooked? Raw meat of course presents another health hazard. On the other hand, if he's cooked, I'm curious as whether he's deep fried, roasted, baked, steamed, or whatnot. Does he come out medium rare or well done? What seasonings, herbs and spices--if any--are used? (Judging by the taste of those wafers, he could use a little more salt).

Some will sheepishly offer the lame excuse that what is being offered and swallowed is Jeebus' spiritual body and spiritual blood. But what the heck are "spiritual body" and "spiritual blood"? Do they have size, shape, mass, color, taste, smell, electrical charge, refractive index, ...? Has anyone seen, detected, measured spiritual body and blood? If this "body" isn't muscle tissue, lipids, dermal layers, has no DNA and no cytology, and if this "blood" isn't human serum, doesn't have a blood type, no rhesus factor, is not composed of erythrocytes, phagocytes, platelets, plasma, and protein, then what are they? If no one can explain what it is and no one has actually verified its existence, then what meaning is there in talking about these things? And why must these spiritual whatever be literally chewed, swallowed, drank? Since ingestion is part of the ritual then what and why cannibalism of the spirit? This deity and his "spirit" (whatever that is) has to go through the mouth and digestive system? What is it with eating this superhuman/god-man? Duh!

Kooky, wacko, nuts. There's just no other way of describing this ritual of feasting on a god-man--because it is completely anachronistic. We no longer are hunter-gatherers of yore. We study cannibalism in socio-anthropology classes; we don't engage in this behavior. In fact such action is proscribed.

And as if that were not enough, educated men actually believe--with much pride and reverence--that they can perform the magic trick of turning flour into flesh! Think about that. Adult males, a good number of them past middle age, in all seriousness chant what amounts to magic words over wafers and wine, actually believing that by virtue of their official status and the formulistic words they utter they can and will in fact cause flour to become the flesh of their deity. Look at it this way. Were I to seriously and adamantly claim that I can transform ballpens into the hand of my god (and that these pens will in my hand produce revelations from God) merely by raising my arms to the heavens, closing my eyes, and reciting some magic words over the pens, I would be dismissed as being a scammer or being off my rockers. Now how different is the claim by and belief of the men in Rome? A delusion subscribed to for centuries by hundreds of thousands is still a delusion!

The Opportunity to see

Wow! This is just incredible. They've actually taken a picture of one of the Mars rover, from a whopping distance of 269 kilometers above Mars. It is just amazing.

The wonders of science and engineering naturally makes me pose the question, Has theism provided us any glimpse of reality at all? And I mean real things out there.

"It's all in the mind" pretty much describes theological claims. Theology is the game for those who can't stand too much reality, while creating one to their liking.


(Mars news/photo via The Bad Astronomer)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Rome has spoken; the matter is closed

It's all but final. According to the Pope's men there is no limbo.

Took them half a millennium to know and conclude that limbo's just a figment of human imagination? Why didn't God's minions just ask their supremo up there? Wouldn't that have licked the problem right away? Oh, pardon me. I forgot. Their unseen, ethereal Commander in Chief lost his tongue right after the myths in the bible were written.

The Alien

Imagine, if at all possible, an alien entity that, among other things, has the following characteristics:

  • Is millions of light-years in size. Since a light year = 9.5 trillion kilometers, this thing is well over 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 meters tall (and throws a lot a weight around!). That's a million and half times the distance of (the now demoted) Pluto to the Sun.

  • Was born shortly after the Big Bang and still around, meaning it's been alive for more or less 14 billion years.

  • Has neural powers that surpass all computers and human brains put together.

  • Has absolute psychic predictive ability such that it knows what's going to happen in the future to all things big and small anywhere in the universe. (I guess when you've been around for eons you kind of get the hang of how things go).

  • Can effortlessly withstand and resist the crushing gravity of a black hole (from which not even light can escape). In fact instead of being devoured by it, this thing has black holes for lunch!

  • Can exceed the speed of light should it choose to do so and go as fast as it desires. Oh, much much faster than the man of steel, indeed.

  • Won't even be bruised, much less killed, were we to bombard it with all the atomic and nuclear weapons humanity can and has ever produced.

Do you think there's such a monstrosity out there? I certainly find it insane to seriously consider such a claim, Russell's teapot notwithstanding.

And yet there are not a few humans who are asking everyone to believe that an entity far far greater than the above hypothetical alien in fact exists out there. And that this entity, besides having all the powers outlined above, also has the ability and capacity to create entire universes and in fact produced this very world of planets, stars, galaxies, and life that we live in. Well, these people are right about one thing. It truly takes an inordinate amount of irrationality--i.e., faith--to entertain such a thought and fully delude oneself that it actually is true. "Crazy" does not begin to describe it.

Muslim skepticism

An example of how religionists themselves are skeptical of various supernatural claims.

A hard-line Muslim youth group chopped up a 100-year-old banyan tree in central Jakarta to prove it did not have mystical powers, as rumors had led some locals to believe, officials said Tuesday.

...

Earlier, rumors had spread that cutting down the tree would bring bad luck because it was spared during a tree-felling drive to make way for a new bus lane in central Jakarta, she said. The rumors gained strength after people left offerings at the tree’s base


Having proved that the banyan tree lacks supernatural powers, can this youth group now turn and focus its skepticism and debunking skills on the entity they worship and adore? I certainly am not holding my breath. On the other hand, I'm expecting to see these machete-wielding fanatics gunning for me.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Reason Driven Life

In last week's Point of Inquiry podcast D.J. Grothe interviewed Dr. Robert Price, professor of theology and scriptural studies at Coleman Theological Seminary, professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute, and author of The Reason Driven Life. Here's how Dr. Price (in part) describes Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life:

It's imbecilic. It's bad theology. It's laughable in its treatment of the bible.... This is the stupidest, most tasteless caricature of [Christianity].

A close of friend of mine regularly attends a bible study of sorts. Earlier this year I found out that they were taking up Warren's book and were tackling its weekly "lessons." I didn't and couldn't keep my dismay. I told her that Warren just doesn't have any evidence for any of the (sometimes ludicrious) theological claims he was making in his book.

Her response was an eye opener. People don't become religiously active, go believing in an invisible and mute daddy in the sky, and find themselves on their knees talking to themselves because there are very good reasons and empirical evidence for doing so. No. People step off the cliff with eyes closed because they want to harbor such feel-good delusions. Simply put, my good friend wants the fairy tale to be true. Maybe she needs to believe in it. So instead of reasoning with such people, it seems better to just stand back, observe them, and do a psychology of religion/belief. Crass as it may sound, they may be useful as unwitting subjects in understanding the many quirks of human psychology.

But in the end, however much psychological/emotional rewards belief in supernatural forces and entities may bring, a delusion is still a delusion. I for one have had a romance with disillusionment for many years. Why anyone would want to get stuck believing in a lie, in something that's false is just beyond me. If what I believe to be true isn't so, well I want to know as early as possible! Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck's definition of mental health is: "a dedication to reality at all costs." Sounds good to me. (Ironically, Peck was a god believer. Strange.)